The gutter beneath Durban's glitter


Durban’s glossy image in tourist brochures belies the tale of two cities that lurk beneath. From a burgeoning market catering for flashy, high-end vehicles, to the other extreme of increasing the number of soup kitchens in the municipality – Durban is a mix of the fancy life and one of struggle.


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Hungry: The eThekwini municipality is to establish 18 new soup kitchens, to complement the existing 18 soup kitchens in the city. 

This is to cater for the growing number of people in need of a decent meal.Durban 21-08-2014
Porsche dealer at uMhlanga.
Picture by: Sibonelo Ngcobo

They are quite often red, with a low deep roar and when they cruise by they turn the heads of everyone around.

Durban’s penchant for high-end luxury vehicles is growing, making it less and less unusual to see a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley or top-of-the-range Porsche causing a stir in parking lots or on the road.

Last week, Durban’s equally high-flying socialites were treated to the launch of the new Lamborghini Huracán, which made its debut at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show earlier this year and showroom floors across the world thereafter.

Durban’s most moneyed were introduced to the Huracán, which means hurricane in Spanish, and takes its inspiration from Spain’s fighter bulls, as do all the other models in the Lamborghini range.

True to its forceful name, the Huracán’s top speed is more than 325km/h, and it can accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 3.2seconds, according to Wikipedia, and reportedly costs around $249 660 (more than R3 million).

While there has been much fanfare over the launch, Durban’s other major vehicle dealers are also smiling all the way to the bank as the taste for the luxury vehicles in the local market grows.

Luxury vehicle brand Porsche, which only has one dealership in KZN, is poised for growth.

Christo Kruger, public relations manager for Porsche SA, said the brand invested specifically in uMhlanga, KZN, due to the growing market.

The dealership’s massive premises in the heart of uMhlanga lie next to several other major dealers in the luxury vehicle market.

“From Porsche’s perspective, if we didn’t think that there was a market in KZN, we would not have invested in the province,” said Kruger.

In fact, the dealership is expanding to offer more services and is presently undergoing a revamp.

“We are expanding now to offer more services which includes a body shop where our customers can bring in their vehicles for body repairs, this is a value-added service for our customers,” said Kruger.

With a range of vehicles on the floor, from pre-owned to ones costing R3.5million, Kruger said they appealed to a wide range of people and were not only limited to cars costing in the millions of rands.

“We are happy with the progress we are making in KZN,” said Kruger.

And for the well-heeled two-wheel petrolheads, the dynamic Harley Davidson dealership caters for those in KZN who prefer the wind in their face.

Anthony Mans, general manager at the uMhlanga branch, which is also the only one in KZN, said they catered for a niche market.

“Our customers are buying largely for leisure, and in KZN this is a big market,” said Mans.

Not only can one buy a motorcycle, but also get kitted out in the relevant clothing, such as leather jackets and helmets.

“We have cycles ranging from R98 750 to R425 000 on the floor, and we sell on average 18 bikes a month,” said Mans.

With Harley Davidson being a premium brand, said Mans, they were excited to be growing in Durban.


It’s a constant battle whether to look directly into the pleading eyes of a street child on Durban’s streets, or to simply look away.

Some will ask for money for food, and others for a job.

However, the numbers of people in need continue to grow, so much so that eThekwini municipality is set to establish 18 new soup kitchens within the region. The 18 kitchens will complement the existing 18 soup kitchens in the municipality.

eThekwini Head of Communications Tozi Mthethwa said the new list and locations will be announced soon, adding to the services presently being offered in Lamontville, Phoenix, Kwamashu, Folweni and other areas across the region.

The kitchens feed, on average, 500 people per site per day, and are open five days a week.

Recently, the municipality came under fire for wanting to award a R10.9 million tender for the supply of sliced brown bread to Ulozolo Co-operative for the soup kitchens.

However, that company did not present its updated tax clearance as well as its BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) certificate, according to a report tabled before the finance and procurement committee last month. The tender is now on hold.

While soup kitchens cater for the extremely needy in communities, where the soup may be the only meal they have in days, average working class residents are also showing signs of need as they sell items for quick cash.

Attie Matthee, who runs the Bluff Pawn Shop, said people came in to buy second-hand items as they cost less, while others came in wanting cash for items.

“You get all sorts of items being pawned. Appliances are popular,” said Matthee.

However, people prefer to sell their items at fleamarkets or online as this cuts out the middleman.

“This has been bad for the second-hand industry, but people want cash in these tough times,” said Matthee.

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